# How do you teach times tables?

Discussion in 'Primary' started by milliebear1, Feb 5, 2012.

1. ### milliebear1

Ours uses a combination of rote learning, 'games' (like fizz buzz etc), strategies (doubling/halving known facts etc), home learning and reward systems (certificates for completed levels and frequent testing).
We don't really have a whole school policy (except the reward system) but this is what most people do.
Being able to apply times table facts is essential - e.g. using what you know to solve a question like twenty people need four pens each...etc. They also need to know the inverse - i.e. division facts.
I feel we tail off times tables a bit in upper KS2, when the lower set children are often weak in this, and mental maths generally (a problem the school is now trying to address).

2. ### lou2005

Like Milliebear said, a combination of rote learning and lots of games. I teach year six and rarely find that the children have instant recall of their tables when they get to me. I spend a massive amount of time ensuring that they do by the time they leave me! Nearly all the maths we do in year six requires knowledge of the tables and I constantly point this out to the children.
I also expect them to use their tables for related division facts. At this time of the year most of my year 6s are able to say that , 54 / 0.6 = 90, 540 / 90 = 6, 540 / 900 = 0.6 etc..
We practise tables every day (chanting them forwards and back up to 12 x whichever table we are practising and quick fire questions with boards up). I do find it frustrating that I have to do this in year 6. If my colleagues teaching lower down the school did it too, my life would be easier!

3. ### nick909Star commenter

A combination of rote learning and investigating patterns, rules and strategies, along with related maths such as division facts and multiplying/dividing by multiples of 10 and 100. Lots of games, as well.
We also do a timed weekly test which is hugely popular with the children - the drive to improve on their previous week's score or time or progress onto more difficult tests is huge. The results always show a steady improvement as well.
I do feel that learning tables doesn't seem to be systematic enough in our school, though.

4. ### AnonymousNew commenter

Well it's reassuring that tables are being done in a manner of ways. Secondary teachers on the maths forum seem to think primary teachers are into trendy teaching like the grid method and chunking and can't do more formal written methods. I agree that tables are really important and it is a skill often neglected in upper primary and in secondary.

5. ### AnonymousNew commenter

Wow - that's GCSE grade C to B if you can do that last stuff!!!

6. ### milliebear1

I'm not sure what formal 'written methods' have to do with times tables. The latter are mental maths skills - poles apart from a written method which can often be learned by children who then haven't the faintest idea when to apply them..
My own view is that many primary schools are too quick to teach written methods, before mental maths skills are firmly embedded.

7. ### minnieminxNew commenter

I would actually sat this is probably true. But I don't see it as a problem. when I taught middle school we only ever did chunking for division and grid for multiplication up to year 8. The high school liked it that way because children were really good at both (and so had a good understanding) when they arrived with them in year 9.

I teach timestables using songs and chanting the answers. We do both to get the idea of counting up being linked to 'lots of'. But I only have year 2 and they are only just learning the whole idea of multiplication.

8. ### AnonymousNew commenter

You need your tables do short division. You need them to do short multiplication. So quite a lot really.
I personally am in favour of developing mental maths methods. You go to the maths forum and suggest that primary schools should spend less time doing written methods and you (like me) will be told that it's not understanding that's important, it's the ability to "do the sum in a written method" - even if they don't get why they are doing it.
I really think there should be a lot more communication between primary and secondary maths teachers.

9. ### milliebear1

I didn';t mean you don't need mental maths skills to do written methods. I was disputing the leap you (other secondary teachres?) seemed to be making from primary schools not teaching enough times tables to primary schools not teaching enough written methods!
It is surely completely barmy that secondary maths teachers would be advocating a rote learned, written method, over mathematical application and understanding!? How can understanding not be important? Surely it is everything?
It is possible to solve a division problem using a written method of course, but knowing short or long division won't help the child who can't understand how to apply that knowledge to the question: There are five boxes of thirty pencils in the stockroom. How many pencils will each child get if there are 20 children?!

10. ### milliebear1

NB - my primary school teaches neither chunking nor grid method. We use traditional short and long multiplication and division (in my view, probably wrongly and too early for many of the children who rarely have a clue what's happening in terms of place value if you ask them to explain!)

11. ### florapost

having been debating this with robyn on the maths forum, i am equally intigued with the replies here. whne you 'rote learn' is that 1x5=5, 2x5=10 etc, or is it counting up 5,10,15,20 etc ?

12. ### AnonymousNew commenter

They would love your school on the maths forum!!!
I seem to get involved in endless debates about why I think developing an understanding is important.
I completely agree. And the worrying thing is this statistic...
Level 2 is equivalent to GCSE grades A*-C. Adults with skills below
Level 2 may not be able to compare products and services for the best
buy, or work out a household budget. 78% of the population are not working at this level.
Taken from the Skills for Life survey (https://community.tes.co.uk/forums/t/550102.aspx)
So many people in this country do not have basic maths skills - especially mental maths skills. We focus so much on developing a written method - regardless of whether they understand it - that we neglect basic mental maths skills and a basic understanding at our peril.

13. ### milliebear1

Both. We also do the inverse in both ways. Our top set children invariably have excellent mental maths skills, and generally good times tables. I really think what sets them apart from many lower set children, is their ability to recognise the patterns in numbers, and times tables is a strong precursor for this, plus, they can apply what they know.

Nothing wrong with the grid method, with extension to the lattice method it works for decimals.
On its own it is great for algebra up to quadratics
re. chunking, most secondary school teachers do not know what it is so don't understand its application.
speaking as a maths secondary teacher for 20 years and now primary
All i wanted as a secondary teacher was that year sevens knew their tables and could do some mental maths confidently and 4 rule accurately and consistently.
I had five years to teach everything else!
Sadly the politicians interfered with the endless tick lists to be completed so primary teachers have been forced to teach many things that are not remembered, leaving less time to make sure the the basics are known and understood!
stop blaming teachers of younger age groups and all start working together against the political interference!

15. ### milliebear1

Absolutely agreed. We are rubbish (as a nation) at maths, for a reason.

16. ### Gertie Grumbles

in the nearly 40 years since I began teaching, there has been a regular back andforth between rote and understanding.

The simple thing is you need both. To understand and then to remember. And if you don;t understand, you can still use table that you have learned by heart!

And i strongly recommend lots of challenging practice with steady progression, targets, score and rewards - all present in timezattack games on http://www.bigbrainz.com/

Seriously motivating, great progression, fun repetition etc! Games that feel like REAL games!

17. ### milliebear1

An incredibly astute post. Primary teachers spend a huge amount of time teaching totally useless bits of maths. Far more than I (or my parents) were taught at school.
There is a real feeling among many primary teachers that much of what is taught in upper key stage 2 is conceptually too advanced for many primary aged children, rushed, taught on the back of shaky understanding etc, and would be far better left until secondary school, allowing us to concentrate on building a really strong foundation of basic maths skills.

18. ### AnonymousNew commenter

Especially decimals, fractions and percentages and how they are related!!!
I seem to remember there being some talk about slimming down the maths curriculum.
I really think we do much too much in primary and rush too much without a good solid understanding of the basics.
I remember a teacher colleague getting a bit upset in year 4 when it was suggested we do a lot of practical stuff on the basics as "we do the same stuff again and again. You would have thought they would remember it by now". There are only 36 (?) table facts to learn and only a certain number of bonds within 10 and 20. How many times do we need to do them? Why can my son remember which fish belongs in which zone but still forgets his bonds to 10!!!!

19. ### milliebear1

Exactly. Classic example though is your short division. I taught lower set maths last year and we did a huge amount of work on bus stop division. I would say, about a quarter could do it reliably then (although possibly not now, six months later!). To a man, the ones who couldn't, were the ones with poor times tables. You just can't use as method like BSD without solid times tables, trying to teach such a method is futile in those circumstances.
I now teach upper set maths, and the difference is palpable. These children are ready for bus stop division - why? Because their times tables are solid and their mental skills are at an appropriate conceptual level to remember the method. Even better...they can actually decide when it's appropriate to use such a method, rather than applying it to every simple division question they ever come across!
One of the main issues with teaching written methods too early, is that it persuades children away from relying on their own ability to work stuff out in their heads. They become unable to solve questions like 20 x 6 and try to do short multiplication instead!

20. ### MszEstablished commenter

1X 5
2X 5
backwards, forwards, randomly and the corresponding division facts with instant recall

Have you read the Ofsted report
Understanding of place value, fluency in mental methods, and good recall of
number facts such as multiplication tables and number bonds are considered by
the schools to be essential precursors for learning traditional vertical algorithms
(methods) for addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.3